The Colorado River system supplies 40 million people in seven western states and Mexico and irrigates more than 5 million acres of farmland on its way to Mexico and the Gulf of California.
The Colorado River’s water is divided into two sections, the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin. Each basin is allocated 7.5 million acre-feet of water per year. The Upper Basin consists of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico. The Lower Basin is made up of California, Arizona, and Nevada. Mexico also receives 1.5 million acre-feet of water annually.
On Monday, August 16th 2021, the US Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever official water shortage within the Colorado River Basin. This will lead to the largest mandatory water cuts to date in the Colorado River Basin. This water shortage is showing up in reservoirs where the states along the Colorado River store their water.
Lake Powell, a reservoir located in northern Arizona and Southern Utah, is only 31 percent full. The amount of water that has flowed into the lake totals 35 percent of the average it has historically received. Lake Powell helps to generate power for Southwestern states.
Lake Mead, located in Nevada and Arizona, stands at 1,067 feet above sea level, it’s lowest point since the Hoover Dam was constructed in the 1930s. Lake Mead serves residents of Arizona, California, Nevada, and northern Mexico.
Western states will soon be renegotiating the Colorado River Compact that governs how they will allocate water in the future. Under the current compact, which expires in 2026, Arizona and Nevada will take the initial cuts ordered by the Bureau of Reclamation.
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